As we are expecting Casemate’s first “Alternative History”, SECOND FRONT: The Allied Invasion of France, 1942-1943, any day now, we decided to sit down and get to know author Alexander M. Grace, Sr.
For those of you haven’t yet heard of this book, it creates a realistic scenario, whereby the vast Allied invasion fleet that hit North Africa in late 1942 had instead turned left, once through Gibraltar, and hit the unguarded southern coastline of Vichy France instead. Coming as a complete surprise to the Germans, the Allies were able to disembark largely at ports instead of across opposed beaches. Vichy’s cooperation had been secured in advance, and the Allies secured a lodgement well before the Wehrmacht could react.
To be sure, the Luftwaffe responded immediately, trying to bomb the invasion ports, but Allied airpower was also in evidence, both fighter and bomber strength. As during the real invasion of France, US paratroopers–in this case the 82nd Airborne– were sewn behind the front, along with French resistance fighters creating havoc with enemy transport routes. German panzer divisions nevertheless soon drove against the rapidly expanding Allied incursion, and titanic tank battles took place near Lyon. We won’t say anything more except to recommend “Second Front” as an intriguing, fact-based look at how World War II in Europe might have unfolded if the Allies had decided in 1942 to assault Europe’s true “underbelly,” not the false one that Churchill mistakenly assumed. Here, in the author’s words:
Why did you decide to write this book? What prompted you to put this story down on paper?
The inspiration for this book came from watching the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan,” with the bloody landings on Omaha Beach. It occurred to me that the sacrifices made there might not have really been necessary, and I began research into why that road was chosen and whether other options might have been available.
How long did it take you to write it?
The actual writing process probably took a couple of months. Of course, I have a “day job” and a family, but I tend to write pretty fast and only having an hour or two a day tends to force me to have my ideas in order for the precious time when I can actually sit down to work.
What do you like most about your book? Why should we read it?
I like to think that I present a plausible scenario for how a key event in history did not have to work out the way it did. Hopefully this will open readers’ minds to the possibility that this is true in other situations as well.
How much research did you do for the book? Can you give us some tips on this?
I have been a student of World War II for many years and have a rather extensive library of my own on the subject. Since this is an alternative history, the focus was on the factual data related to the starting point of my divergence, and a study of the capabilities of the contending sides to help determine plausible outcomes. As a long time wargamer, I was able to set up the simulation and actually game it out to check the validity of my premises.
What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book? Have you always been interested in history?
History has always been my passion. Fiction can be entertaining and even thought-provoking, but history really happened. In fiction, the challenge is to make the events believable. With history, the more spectacular and unlikely the event the better, as long as you can document it. I was addicted in my youth to historical wargames, fascinated with the idea of changing history. I played them, reviewed them, and even designed some. This book is an outgrowth of that thought process.
Have you read anything lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
On World War II I recommend Gregor Dallas, John Erickson, and Norman Davies. I have been doing research on the Cold War and recommend Adam Ulam, Roy Medvedev, and Orlando Figes.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have recently completed work on a rather ambitious history of the Cold War (1917-1991) for which I am currently looking for a publisher.
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